Brisbane’s water supply will continue to contain fluoride after Lord Mayor Graham Quirk declined an opportunity, enshrined in Newman government legislation, to opt out of the state system.
Cr Quirk said the decision would save ratepayers up to $350 per household, because the law change would see councils slugged with the costs of setting up a non-fluoride water distribution network valued at $150 million.
He said the cost would be so high because Brisbane’s location at the heart of the southeast Queensland water grid meant the city drew its water from up to seven sources.
“Under the state government’s new legislation, each council is required to make their own decision on whether they will continue to add fluoride to water,” Cr Quirk said.
“If other SEQ councils opted to continue with fluoridated drinking water, preliminary estimates are it could cost Brisbane ratepayers more than $150 million to opt out and set up our own water distribution infrastructure for non-fluoridated water.
“That is the sort of scenario facing any SEQ council that decides to opt out of providing fluoridated water and reinforced my decision to continue providing fluoridated water in Brisbane.”
Brisbane residents have had fluoride in their drinking water since 2008, when the Bligh Labor government introduced the treatment with the aim of reducing tooth decay and related dental health problems.
Cr Quirk rejected calls for a plebiscite on the issue, citing his personal support and medical counsel as other factors contributing to his decision.
He said the Australian Medical Association, World Health Organisation and the Australian Dental Association reported fluoride in drinking water was beneficial, and that there was widespread popular support for the treatment.
“Almost two-thirds of the public support fluoridation,” Cr Quirk said.
“Opinion polls in 2005 had 58 per cent of Queenslanders were in favour and just 25 per cent opposed. By 2007, support had grown to 62 per cent.”
In announcing the legislative change to compulsory fluoridation in late November, Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government was “convinced by the strong advice of health authorities that endorse fluoride treatment”.
Mr Springborg said the fluoride clause in the new South East Queensland Water (Restructuring) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 was response to the LNP’s “strong philosophical commitment to local decision-making.”
“Eighty-seven per cent of Queenslanders have fluoride included in their local water supplies,” he said.
“However, while we continue to advocate for the inclusion of fluoride, we retain a strong philosophical commitment to local decision-making.”
Mr Springborg said the LNP would continue to provide funding for fluoride infrastructure until 2014.